Variety of styles awaits host

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

TORONTO -- The Canadian team hoping to do its country proud this July has a nice soccer smorgasbord from which to dine.

As the host nation in the Under-20 World Cup, the Canadians were given a break and, as a designated top seed in Group A, avoid tournament powerhouses early on.

"We don't have any of the traditional big boys such as Brazil, Argentina and Spain," Canadian coach Dale Mitchell said after the draw. "But it won't be easy.

"I do think we have three difficult opponents though because they have three different styles and they come from three different federations."

First up in Toronto on July 1 will be Chile which, no doubt, will bring some of their South American flair and technical expertise to BMO Field.

The next Group E opponent -- July 5 in Edmonton -- will be Austria. While not yet a recognized world power, the Austrians did advance through a tough European qualifier in which Italy, England, Germany and France all were denied a spot.

SCRAPPY AFRICANS

The Canadians finish their preliminary round in Edmonton on July 8 against Congo. For that contest, they'll surely be up against the scrappy play that has defined African squads in recent years.

While acknowledging that there isn't a soft spot in the bunch, Mitchell hopes his players respond to the challenge, and the home crowd.

"I look at it like we're hosting. If we don't get out of our group, we'll be disappointed," Mitchell said. "And that's the message we will pass on to our players.

"We have to find some way to take advantage of being the host team. We had a great example from Germany in the 2006 men's World Cup, the way the country got behind them right from the start."

Torontonian Andrea Lombardo, who will be making his second appearance on the Canadian side in this tournament, sees it as the ultimate selling stage for the game.

"This can really be a spark for a lot of Canadians and not just in Toronto," said Lombardo, a forward.

"I know all the Ontario guys are getting excited about playing the opener in Toronto. This can really provide some momentum for the game in the city and the country."

---

GROUP A (AT EDMONTON)

- Canada -- Home-field advantage and an experienced squad are their aces. Don't let bye into field fool you.

- Chile -- Midfielder Alexis Sanchez a bonafide star already and should be a handful for Canada in the opener.

- Congo -- Captured the African youth championship and is the latest sensation from the soccer-crazed continent.

- Austria -- Back in for the first time since 1983 as country commits itself to youth development. Unknown quantity but they defeated some Euro powers to get here.

GROUP B (AT BURNABY, B.C.)

- Spain -- Undefeated in tough UEFA qualifying and considered one of the deepest teams in the tourney.

- Uruguay -- Returns to event after eight-year absence. Striker Edinson Cavani an early candidate for leading scorer.

- Jordan -- Developing soccer nation makes debut but should be easy fodder for favoured Spain.

- Zambia -- Clifford Mulenga one of tourney's stars. Scored a pair to knock out Cameroon.

GROUP C (AT TORONTO)

- Portugal -- The great Luis Figo led it to 1991 title. Midfielder Bruon Gama, who led the team to the under-17 title in 2003, is the new star.

- New Zealand -- First Kiwi team to qualify for this event and face a tough task with two heavyweights.

- Gambia -- Baby Scorpions qualify for first time. For their efforts, they get Portugal and Mexico. Ouch!

- Mexico -- A solid tourney favourite. Giovana Dos Santos is making his name with Barcelona as a budding pro.

GROUP D (AT MONTREAL)

- Poland -- Dawid Janczyk already is a legend at home, scoring a hat trick over Belgium during qualifying.

- Brazil -- We can only guess how many new stars will be unveiled for four-time winners. Here's one: Alexandre Pato.

- Korea Republic -- Has not reached the quarters since 1991, but should have solid fan support.

- United States -- Famous Freddy Adu will get the star treatment, but facing Brazil makes it a tough task.

GROUP E (AT OTTAWA)

- Argentina -- The defending champs are loaded with young talent. Ever Banega is being touted as next great Argentine star.

- Czech Republic -- Stout defence keeps it in all games. Attacking midfielder Marek Strestik provides some of the offence.

- Korea DPR -- Under-17 team reached quarters in 2005. Captain Kim Kum-Il was a force in qualifying.

- Panama -- Have lost all six contests at under-20s. Hopes lie with striker Josue Jafeth Brown.

GROUP F (AT VICTORIA)

- Japan -- Will make seventh consecutive under-20 appearance. Best result so far was runner-up to Spain in 1999.

- Scotland -- Gritty squad sure to be a fan favourite, a special treat for the fans in Victoria.

- Nigeria -- Flying Eagles were 2005 finalists. Could they be the future African stars?

- Costa Rica -- Ticos back after missing last two tourneys. Led by forward Jean Carlo Solorzano.


Videos

Photos